Oil-fouled Gulf, struggling coastal residents face long recovery, despite progress

Even after stuffing the blown-out Gulf of Mexico well with enough mud to pack down the oil, federal officials aren't ready to declare victory over the stubborn spill yet. Neither are many Gulf residents, who have agonized as engineers launched one effort after another to finally quell it.

Now, the tide appears to be turning. BP said Wednesday it was finally able to force the oil back down to its underground reservoir with a slow torrent of heavy mud in an early step toward plugging the well up for good. And the company plans to start on Thursday shoving cement down from pipes attached to ships a mile above the sea.

The news comes as a federal report indicates only about a quarter of the spilled oil remains in the Gulf and is degrading quickly.